Consistency is a laudable goal, but not something to get too hung up on. I very much agree with Ralph Waldo Emerson, “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds…” Just the same, some level of consistency is important. At very least, the attempt keeps us intellectually honest, because one can only finesse an argument so far before it crumbles. In the field of politics, we see inconsistency in the form of hypocrisy — and hypocrisy of the most premeditated nature.
My favorite example of this is Obamacare. As Scott Lemieux noted early this year, Obamacare is not the same as the Heritage Foundation plan. But the one main thing the two plans share is the most hated thing in Obamacare: the individual mandate. And as late as John McCain’s 2008 campaign for president, Republicans were fine with the individual mandate. But the moment it was in the Democrats’ plan, it because, “Socialism! Socialism, I tell you!” This is not a foolish inconsistency; this is a profound and disingenuous inconsistency — the stuff of villainy.
So I was interested but not at all surprised to read Jonathan Chait this morning, Why Is This Bush Official Flip-Flopping on Obamacare? Simple answer: because he’s a Republican. The person in question is the president of the American Health Policy Institute, Tevi Troy. In 2007 — you know, when a Republican was in the White House — he wanted to tax the so called Cadillac healthcare plans — those worth over $15,000 per years. But yesterday over at The Wall Street Journal, he wrote, Another ObamaCare Deception. The whole article is about how the Obamacare tax on employer provided health insurance above $27,500 would be — Wait for it! — a tax!
So when Republicans are in the White House, a tax on plans worth more than $15,000 is just good sense. But when Democrats are in the White House, a tax on plans worth more than $27,500 is going to impoverish the American worker. Clearly, this is just more Obamacare punching. If it’s in Obamacare, Republicans hate it, regardless of what they thought before. Notice that the Cadillac tax has always been greatly loved by Republicans because it is another way to harm union workers. Only people in strong unions (and managers, who will just vote themselves raises to offset it anyway) get these kinds of plans. It show the lengths to which Republicans will go to attack the new healthcare law.
As I said, this is not a surprise. If you burrow down deeply into conservative ideology, what you will find is… nothing. That explains the obsession with purity — it is all they have. This is the reason that there has been no replacement plan. Their’s is an ideology of annihilation. They hate Obamacare not because of what it does but simply because it does anything. We saw much the same thing with the Republican response to Hurricane Katrina. President Bush seemed to treat it the way the cargo cultists did when trying to get the airplanes to come back. He seemed to think that all that was necessary was for him to drop by and look at the damage (From a plane!) and he was done. He had cast his spell!
When Republicans are in power, they are incompetent. When they are not in power, they are against everything. They are, in a word, nihilists. The problem is that they won’t admit it. And that is why they can’t help but contradict themselves from administration to administration.